Accident – Death – Obituary News : London Police Urged to Reconsider Disclosure of Information in Death Investigations
A prominent member of London’s Police Services Board has called for a thorough review of the information being disclosed by the force in death investigations. Megan Walker, the vice-chair of the board and former director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, believes that the police may not always release as much information as they should, particularly in cases involving possible intimate-partner violence. According to Walker, withholding crucial details, such as the names of those involved, can jeopardize the safety of women.
Walker’s concerns have been raised in the aftermath of the tragic death of Tiffany Gates, prompting her mother to question why the London Police Service has not released more information about her daughter’s death, including her name. Gates, who was 30 years old, was found dead in her boyfriend’s apartment on September 7th. The police reported that both individuals had been shot. However, it was only through social media posts from friends and family that the public became aware of their names and the nature of their relationship. Currently, the London Police Service has only stated that the deaths are under investigation.
Walker emphasized the importance of transparency from the police to the media, stating that withholding names and other pertinent information can make women feel invisible and less likely to seek help. She stressed the need for women to feel confident in reaching out to the police, knowing that their concerns will be taken seriously.
The issue of naming victims of violent crimes and the individuals charged with them varies among Canadian police forces. A 2019 report commissioned by the Edmonton Police revealed that 36% of responding police services release the names of all homicide victims, while 54% do so depending on the circumstances. Only 7% always withhold victim’s names. Following the report, the Edmonton Police changed their disclosure policy to default to naming all homicide victims, with some exceptions.
On the other hand, the York Regional Police adopt a case-by-case approach when deciding what information to release. Their primary objective is to protect the privacy of living victims and their children, as well as to preserve the integrity of their investigations. While they may withhold certain details out of respect for the families involved or to preserve the investigation’s confidentiality, they have released the names of both victims and individuals charged with murder in specific cases.
Women’s advocacy groups have been advocating for more information to be disclosed about the relationship between murdered women and their alleged perpetrators. They argue that this information is crucial for tracking and quantifying cases of intimate-partner violence.
Romayne Smith-Fullerton, a professor at Western University, believes that while there may be valid reasons for withholding victims’ names immediately after a violent crime, there should be standardized laws dictating when such information can be made public. In cases where all parties involved are deceased, like the case of Tiffany Gates, Smith-Fullerton sees no reason to withhold their names. She suggests that stakeholders collaborate with the police to establish a standardized, national set of rules for releasing information in such cases. This would help protect women and ensure their safety.
The call for increased transparency and standardized rules regarding the disclosure of information in death investigations is gaining momentum. It is hoped that by addressing these concerns, the London Police Service and other Canadian police forces can better serve the public and provide support to victims of violence..